Tag Archives: Brain Science

Robots vs. Leaders with Empathy

Speaking from my years of experience working with people, families and communities as a professional coach, trainer, psychotherapist and social worker, I’ve always appreciated that our human needs are very clear – we want to be seen, have a voice and be able to contribute in a meaningful way.

And a robot or computer simply can’t provide that connection in any significant way and never will be able to. A robot is no competition for the human touch, the human heart and the human ear.

As leaders, these subtle but critical sensibilities show up as empathy. Empathy is the core of all social & emotional intelligence: true inspirational leadership never happens without it. Empathy is the ability to see the situation from another person’s eyes and heart. It’s the ability to set aside your own agenda, to listen deeply without judgment and to be able to genuinely understand and appreciate the perspective of another.

Do all leaders have this ability? No, they do not but the ones who do are remembered for their ability to engage and inspire us to always be at our best. We will work our hearts and souls out for that leader who genuinely hears us, values us and gives us the opportunity to use our talents to contribute in meaningful ways.

Can empathy be learned? Yes, it can, with daily practice and an authentic belief and enjoyment of others. It’s part of what clearly differentiates us from any computer program, machine or data package.

A robot can’t compete or replace us when we as leaders are at our best and humanly connected to others.

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Creating Positive Energy as a Leader

As a leader, do you bring positive energy into the room or do you drain it as soon as you walk in? Think about it . . . you may have a good sense of what emotional impact you have on others or maybe you don’t have a clue.

Why is it even important? A core competency for any leader in any capacity is their ability to connect positively with others up and down their organization’s structure. These leaders bring an energy, optimism and a sense of hope to their work and relationships. This positive connection expands into an ability to engage and influence others in the mission and desired outcomes of the company, organization or team effort. People gravitate very naturally to this kind of leader.

But how do we as individual leaders develop this competency for ourselves? It’s so easy to slip back to the doom and gloom of everyday work life. Neuroscientists tell us this is actually how our brains are hard-wired – for basic survival – but our world has changed and we need to change our thinking as well.

Here are my favorite three ways to practice changing these old thinking habits:

First, when you wake up tomorrow morning think of 3 things that you are thankful for or grateful for in this new day. These are the lenses through which you will see everything that will happen during your day – a perspective of abundance rather than scarcity.

Second, do a small act of kindness today – and don’t mention it to anyone.

Third, when you go to bed tonight think of 3 things that went well during that day – not what you didn’t get done or what went wrong but rather What Went Well (WWW) (Seligman).

As a leader in any capacity, these simple daily practices will help you refocus on what is going well and restore a sense of positive energy that will ripple out, increasing your ability to engage and influence others.

Try it and let me know what happens!

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Your Brain: 100 Things You Never Knew,

“Your Brain: 100 Things You Never Knew”, National Geographic Magazine (reissue), Produced by the National Geographic Society, Washington D.C. 2012.

I picked this National Geographic Magazine up in Whole Foods and have been intrigued by the wealth of information it contains. It hits all the aspects of brain function from the learning brain, to the unconscious brain to the emotional brain (my favorite). It hits the highlights of the surge of brain science studies and advancements and how this information helps us as leaders be far more effective when we understand how we can “retrain” our brains to embrace more positive thinking patterns.

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Finding Meaning Is Key to Engagement

careerconnections-at a crossroadsIt’s not surprising. . when we find meaning and purpose in our daily work we are significantly more engaged. Think about it. When are you the happiest? Feel the most excited, passionate, and energetic and focused? It’s when you see the deeper reason and benefit to your efforts.

And as leaders committed to inspiring and guiding others, we know that we can create that authentic meaning at work and when we do so, we tap into the key to full engagement.

As Tom Rath describes in Are You Fully Charged?, creating meaning in our work evolves over time rather than just falling in our lap. It’s the culmination of small actions that result in people becoming more energetic, optimistic, creative and flexible. It is a commitment to a deeper purpose that brings out the best of what each of us has to offer. But how do we as leaders do that?

Here are three questions that I ask and encourage my coaching clients to consider each day. You may also find them helpful and could modify them to work in your own unique work setting.

  1. Ask yourself each morning: “What will I do today that will make a positive difference in someone else’s life?” Set that intention, follow-through and then observe what happens for you. It’s almost always a sense of increased well-being.
  2. Ask yourself: “How does my daily work provide positive benefit to others, or doesn’t? Is there a way I could change it up to be more impactful? What would that greater positive ripple effect look like?” Have the courage to make those small changes.
  3. Ask yourself: “From what perspective or lenses do I see my world each day? Is it from an abundance or scarcity perspective?” This has an enormous effect in your own sense of well-being as well as your ability to be fully engaged in meaningful work.

Let me know how these three questions and resulting actions work for you. I’ll be doing the same – and even picking up the pace as we speak!

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Your Brain At Work

Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, David Rock, 2009.

So many colleagues recommended this book that I just had to pick it up. And it’s everything as promised. I even got it for my ‘ole IPod to listen while I’m at the gym.

Rock helps us understand the intricacies of brain science by taking us inside the thinking of two young professionals, Emily & Paul. He tells the story of their everyday work lives from the perspective of what’s going on in their brains (scientifically) – what gets in the way of their career success and how to move past those habits and behaviors that don’t work for us anymore. A fascinating read!

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